The U.S. House has passed a measure to pump $75 million into the construction of the National Bio- and Agro Defense Facility in Manhattan. The vote, which occurred late last week in the form of the appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security, also stiff-armed four amendments that would have stripped the funding or shelved the project.
The measure passed the House 234-182, with U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp voting against it. All other members of the Kansas delegation voted for it.
Bill Roe, a staffer in the Topeka office of U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, described the approval as “what we’ve been working and fighting for.
It was a very good day.”
Whether the money will actually materialize is murky at best. The Senate has started work on a budget for Homeland Security, and a subcommittee’s work so far has not included funding, according to Sarah Little, a spokesperson for Sen. Pat Roberts. She said the Senate would debate the issue in the summer, and there would likely be resolution during a conference committee between the House and Senate after that. She said that she didn’t expect much opposition to NBAF funding in the Senate this time.
Congress has previously appropriated $40 million for construction of the NBAF’s central utilities plant and $50 million for construction of the facility as a whole. But the project was more or less put on hold when President Obama’s proposed budget earlier this year cut out funding entirely. The votes late last week put down four attempts to amend the bill offered by representatives from New York and California that would have stripped out or redirected the NBAF money. Those amendments were beaten back by at least 60 percent of the House, records show, which Roe said was a good indication of bipartisan support for NBAF.
Supporters of NBAF here were pleased about the House’s support, but were dismayed at Huelskamp’s vote against it.
Huelskamp, who represents the First District that will include Manhattan after the next election because of redrawn electoral maps, has said he supports the NBAF – pointing out that he voted for state support of it when he was in the Kansas Legislature. But he voted against the Homeland Security bill last week that funded it, he said, because the bill did not include offsetting spending cuts to balance increased spending on disaster relief. The concept of offsetting cuts was part of a previous debt deal in Congress.
The overall Homeland Security budget in the bill was $39.1 billion, down by $484 million from fiscal year 2012. The measure passed largely on party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats against.
Huelskamp was one of only 16 Republicans against it. Seventeen Democrats voted in favor of it. The party-line aspects of the vote were largely reported to be about matters related to immigration.
The sensitive issue here, though, is the NBAF. After the vote, Huelskamp issued the following statement:
“Since my time in the Kansas State Senate, I have been supportive of NBAF and efforts to make the project happen at Kansas State University,” Huelskamp said. “Beginning with my votes for the project in 2008 in the Kansas Senate and continuing with my support of the project at the federal level, I have consistently backed both construction and research efforts in Manhattan. When the DHS
Appropriations bill came to the floor last week, I joined others in the Kansas House delegation in speaking and voting against numerous Democrat defunding amendments that would create further delays for the NBAF project. Fortunately, none of those amendments was adopted.
However, because of the inclusion of $5 billion in unpaid-for disaster
funding, I did vote against the entire $45 billion appropriations bill.”
Lyle Butler, president of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, said he takes Huelskamp at his word about support. But he said Huelskamp “needs to become a real leader” for NBAF, and if he finds something he can’t support, he needs to figure out another way to get NBAF funding to the House floor.
“He’s going to have to demonstrate leadership on the issue, as Congresswoman Jenkins has,” Butler said.